Helsini/Tallin, Finland/Estonia, Helsini/Tallin, Finland/Estonia, Bhutan

Ptarmigan is a project that has operated in Helsinki since 2009 and in Tallinn since 2011. We began as a project and performance space in Helsinki to offer a non-commercial alternative to cultural production, with an emphasis on challenging artistic scenarios and participatory events. In late 2010 the decision was made to close our space in Helsinki and open a physical location in Tallinn, to explore the creative world of Estonia and build connections between arts and culture alternatives in both cities. In Helsinki, Ptarmigan exists now as a nomadic project, curating events in other venues.

Ptarmigan  -- named after a bird (lumep├╝├╝ in Estonian and riekko in Finnish), for no particular reason except we like strange words -- has brought international artists and producers to Finland and Estonia for many musical performances, short and long term residencies, workshops, lectures, and other projects. It has functioned financially through volunteer efforts — the rental of the premises has been paid for by the organisers (who also use the space as their own studios), and events are financed through small ticket charges and donations for food and drink. Some residencies are funded through the KK Nord residency fund, though most are self-financed. The high cost of real estate in Finland led to the decision to relocate to Tallinn, though we dream of one day operating a space again in Helsinki.

Over the 160+ events that have happened through the two Ptarmigans, the philosophy has shifted gradually to being a community-based culture centre with a strong aesthetic sense. Our first few months were primarily experimental music concerts and art installations/exhibitions; in 2010 the programme became much more orientated around workshops, seminars, and other forms of interaction that blur the lines between audience and presenter. At some point we stopped seeing the people who came to events as an audience, but instead as a diverse community who were the real operators of the space.

Ptarmigan looks to this community to propose ideas, events and other projects; we value participation in both events and management. The most valuable events are ones that are inclusive and welcoming, yet strange and idiosyncratic; we love to see cultural boundaries destroyed, and new spontaneous networks form. Our websites contain a proposal form where we welcome ideas from anyone for potential activities.  Ptarmigan seeks to operate in a post-subcultural space, emphasising participation and enthusiasm.

As Ptarmigan has slowly moved from Helsinki’s underground-industrial-outsider space into partnerships with the creative community of the city, the Tallinn location has started fresh. Helsinki’s rigid cultural system created a void that Ptarmigan filled; the overall project served as a productive form of institutional critique. In the far more open cultural landscape of Tallinn, we’re discovering all of the wonderful things about this city and focusing on doing what we believe in, without feeling any pressure. We have been organising workshops in various disciplines, and also introduced some of the recurring projects begun in Helsinki. We have also reached out to our friends in Finland and provided a venue for their own performances and projects here, and we likewise hope to bring new Tallinn friends across the Gulf to work in Helsinki.

Steve Vanoni performance, Tallinn 2011
Cristiano Rosa workshop on Circuit Bending, Helsinki, September 2010
Radio Aporee workshop on urban sound mapping, Tallinn, April 2011
Non Grata performance night, Tallinn, June 2011
12-tone filter workshop, part of Tuned City Tallinn festival, July 2011
Sculptural Food workshop, Helsinki, April 2010
"Drawing" workshop, Helsinki, May 2010